Saturday, December 20, 2008
I took on more crafting projects than I should have this holiday season, but I don't regret a single one--especially now, as they're starting to move into the "completed" column of my to-do list. One important project was actually five projects: creating something for the teachers and administrators at Eli's preschool. There was a group gift that consisted of cash, collected from all of the families. That took me of the hook for making sure it was something practical, so I could just have fun. I decided tote bags were the thing, so I set off to find a pattern. I ultimately decided on Amy Karol's Pleated Beauty, from Bend the Rules Sewing. It was simple enough to suit a wide range of styles, but allowed for a little bit of personalization for each individual. Ultimately I made six bags, knowing that one would be my least favorite (or at least the one I was least confident in). I wanted to make sure I was in love with each bag I gave.
This first bag is for one of Eli's teachers. I couldn't get a perfect grasp on her taste, but it definitely tends toward traditional. She's not afraid of color (think: splashy sweaters) but I didn't want to go too bold. I combined a deep red corduroy with a Japanese print for the pleats.
The next one is for the center director who wears lots of earthy colors, along with some brighter ones. I stayed earthy with hers. (I think hers is probably the bag that comes closest to "the one I would have made for myself.") It's wide wale brown corduroy with one of my favorite quilting fabrics in the pleats.
This one is for the teacher I know the least; she's only in Eli's class one day a week, but I didn't want to leave her out (so many gray areas in holiday gift giving!). I went for classic, with a fine wale navy corduroy with another Japanese print for the pleats. This is the first bag I made, so this one has just one interior pocket, which is very large. This is the one that prompted me to shrink them down and do two instead of this giant one. I added pleats to the pocket because it was sagging so much.
This is for the assistant director of the center, and it's one of the ones I'm most excited about it. When I'm making gifts for people (or simply choosing them from a store), I'm on constant "high alert," waiting for the clue about what will suit them best. The recipient of this bag very often wears bright blue, either in her clothing or her jewelry. I didn't want the bag to be too over the top, so I saved the color for the lining and I love how it came out. Now, every time I see her wearing bright blue I get a little giddy about giving her the bag. This one is fine wale corduroy with Alexander Henry prints from JoAnn's for the pleats and lining.
And this one will be my absolute favorite to give because I had the best, best clue for what to do. This is for the lead teacher in Eli's class. One day at the start of the year I was wearing a shirt I'd purchased on Etsy that had Russian dolls silkscreened on to it. She commented on it and told me that she collects Russian nesting dolls. I filed that little factoid away, not knowing if or when it would come in handy. I was thrilled to find this Japanese print and bought it in gray and off white. I hope she loves it as much as I do.
And this one was going to be the "spare," I think because it didn't feel as personalized as the others. And then it just so happened that my sister was in my sewing room and saw the fabric and said, "Oh! Make me something with this for Christmas!" DONE! Instead of sewing in an accent fabric on the exterior, I just followed the lining measurements and pleated the fabric on its own. I think it would have been too busy with something else added. This is the only bag that's not corduroy.
Based on the numerous other blog entries out there about this bag and some of my own preferences, I made the following adjustments:
*I widened the straps by 1/4 inch and added a flannel facing to make them a little cushier.
*I also sewed the straps into tubes and then turned them right side out and topstitched them. That was just easier for me.
*Instead of one large pocket I did two smaller ones, one on each side of the bag.
*I didn't measure the rigid interfacing for the bottom of the bag until the lining was fully constructed. I found that the measurements that Amy provided were just a little shy of how I wanted it.
*I tacked the rigid interfacing at the center as well as at the corners. It seemed to want to flip without that extra stitch.
*I reinforced the attachment of the straps to the bag with an additional line of stitching just above the top stitching that went around the entire bag.
And one thing I would do if I made another of these bags in the future:
*I'd increase the length of the straps by about an inch so that I had more to work with as I attached them to the bag. This would allow me to further reinforce them. I'm not entirely confident in their strength at this point.
Overall, this was a very easy bag to make and lent itself well to multiple iterations and some fun creativity.